If Business Leaders Establish the Right Culture Now, Growth Will Follow
As a business grows, a good culture is one that is flexible to the needs of the business and its people.
"Culture eats strategy for breakfast" goes the famous quote from legendary management consultant Peter Drucker. But what does he mean by this?
Put simply, it means that while you can put all your effort into strategy, it won't necessarily drive growth. Instead, Drucker believes that a company with a strong culture – one where everyone shares similar beliefs, goals, and ways of doing things – has a much better foundation for success.
For those companies just starting out, particularly those that have very few employees, creating and instilling culture is a much simpler task. Company founders can reinforce their idea of a good working culture through their personal interactions with employees every day.
However, as businesses grow, retaining a vibrant and meaningful company culture becomes more challenging as objectives change and workforces expand to meet rising demand.
As a high-growth company itself, AND Digital has had to think carefully about navigating some of these challenges. However, it's in sticking to our human-centric approach that we've managed to attract and retain brilliant and curious minds, while ensuring we nurture a vibrant culture.
Below are a number of points to consider when it comes to building a truly powerful company culture.
Set some shared goals.
Culture can take many forms, however, in its broadest sense it's a company's beliefs and behaviours that determine how its people interact and drive things forward. In AND Digital's case, we set ourselves Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs) which help to inspire colleagues and nurture a shared growth mentality.
Setting out our overarching goals in bitesize statements helps to ensure every person knows they are part of something bigger than themselves and empowers them to know that their day-to-day contribution is always valued and meaningful. This is where the true essence of culture-building lies.
Money can't buy culture.
Good company culture can't be bought. It isn't about investing in the latest "on-trend' office amenities like novelty slides, a ping pong table or a company bar to stimulate a sense of culture.
The real key to culture comes in providing people with an authentic environment that gives them access to the tools, education, and resources they need to innovate, share ideas and achieve their career and life goals – while also meeting those of their employer. Creating an environment where people can achieve greater job satisfaction will always take your company much further than "trendy' facilities ever will.
Create a culture with flex.
It's important for every business to ensure that its culture doesn't stagnate and continues to evolve as its people learn and grow. A good culture is one that is flexible to the needs of the business and its people. It must embrace diversity, be inclusive and actively welcome new ideas and ways of thinking to the table.
After all, just as growing a business isn't a linear process, cultivating a progressive company culture isn't either. Although you'll want everyone to stick to some rough guiding principles, you'll also want to encourage people to think differently, ask questions, and take some calculated leaps of faith every now and again.
None of our modern-day success stories were built on the ley lines of a top-heavy, dictatorial culture. For example, Apple actively encouraged a swashbuckling approach among its people and customers – the essence of which can be seen in its now legendary Superbowl advert of 1984 which opened with the immortal line "Here's to the crazy ones."
Not all companies will be on the risk-taking side of the cultural spectrum. It's important that each business finds its unique approach. However, all cultures need to evolve in a thoughtful, considered way so they can remain inclusive, relevant, and inspiring.
Get beyond the business.
Cultivating and maintaining a progressive culture really boils down to stripping away the superfluous layers of business thinking and treating employees for what they are – human beings.
Understanding people on an emotional level is vital. Be interested in their ambitions and aspirations. Find out what interests and motivates them and get to know what their life is like outside of working hours. Treating and referring to people as mere commodities, assets or so-called "resource' to be used is demeaning, dehumanising, and will drive down energy and motivation in individuals and teams.
At AND, as well as our individual professional job titles, each of us also has what we call an "AND title'. This additional title is designed to recognise that as human beings, we're all equal with our own unique personal interests and aspirations.
For instance, my LinkedIn profile lists me as "Founder AND Foodie' of AND Digital owing to my passion for enjoying all kinds of cuisine and living in a village that is renowned for the finest restaurants in the UK. What's more, we're not just a company of 1,000+ UX Designers, Cloud Engineers, or Product Developers. We're also a company of people who are "aspiring painters," "grand designers," "literary queens," and "disco divas" among its various clubs and teams.
Our AND titles not only help to start conversation with our colleagues, they're also a way for clients to connect with the human being sitting on the other side of the meeting room, in their team or displayed in the top right corner of a video conferencing screen.
At their core, our AND titles are designed to build authentic and human connections with each other and our clients. By making those vital connections on a human level we know our culture will always be human centric.
A powerful growth driver.
All of the tips I've shared here have one common denominator: they're all about putting the needs of your people front and centre. If you can make it your mission to do this in every aspect of your business, then you'll be justly rewarded with a company that can weather any challenge, solve any problem, and provide you with the fuel you'll need to fulfil your vision for the organisation.
At AND, we've once again proved the power of the word "and', by demonstrating that you can be an ambitious, growth driven organisation, and still retain a vibrant and supportive culture.
As a final thought, the foodie in me would certainly be interested to know what strategy tastes like for breakfast!